Saturday, June 07, 2014

My Tribute to Mid-Wales Pylons/Turbines Protestors

As I reactivate 'A View From Rural Wales', it's seems right that I should begin by revisiting the issues that have taken my attention over recent years - a sort of issues update. And over the last 9 yrs no issue has intruded on my thoughts more than the proposed development of onshore wind farms in Mid-Wales. Now I'm not expecting to say much more about this issue. I feel that, in general, I have done what I can. It's now in the hands of a planning inspector named Adrian Poulter, the UK Government and the voters in 2015. I want to use this blogpost for two purposes. Firstly to give a general picture of where we are on the Welsh Govt desire to industrialise the uplands of Mid-Wales, and why I now believe the project is now unlikely to go ahead. Secondly I will pay tribute to the amazing volunteers who have given up months/years of their lives to defend Mid Wales from such a fate.

I) The Conjoined Public Inquiry into 6 planning applications for wind farms/132kv line has just ended. The Inquiry took a year. We expect the Inspector to write up his report, including decision recommendations and send it to the Dept of Climate Change before the end of 2014. We have no idea when the Secretary of State will announce his decision. And we do not know whether judicial review of that decision will be sought or secured. At the same time, National Grid are ploughing on with preparations to seek consent to build a 400kv line from North Shropshire to Cefn Coch (around 40 miles) to serve these and many other wind farms just sitting in the planning system. At some stage, National Grid will announce it's proposals for statutory public consultation. We do not know when this will happen.

2) We expect the subsidy arrangements for onshore wind to change in April 2017. At present, any wind farm which secures planning permission, is built and starts producing electricity will receive a guaranteed level of subsidy. Any wind farm not producing by April 2017 will have no guarantee of receiving any subsidy at all, which would make them totally unviable. The new system of Govt subsidy will be based on 'Contracts for Difference'. This involves a whole range of renewable energy projects applying to a 'pot' of subsidy on a competitive basis. At that time the Govt will decide which projects to support. And when the 'pot' is used up, there will not be more subsidy available. Wind farm permissions will no longer be a licence to print money.

3) The Conservatives have stated unambiguously that if they form the Govt after May 2015, steps will be taken to end onshore wind subsidies, except in special cases. The target that was set for onshore wind by Govt in support of carbon reduction policy will have been met - several years early. It's expected that the moratorium will be in place by Nov 2015 (17 months time). The Conservatives have also stated unambiguously that local opinion, as expressed through the planning process will not be over-ruled on appeal. No will mean No as far as refusal of planning permission is concerned. We do not know what the stance of any coalition or alternative government would be post 2015.

It's after taking all the above into account that I have recently taken the view that I do not think the Mid Wales Connection Project, which National Grid are reported to have already spent £10million on, will go ahead. Until a few weeks ago, I've never said more that that I thought there was a chance of stopping this project. I also think that the case against agreeing all the proposals before the Public Inquiry is so strong, that there is a very strong probability that the decision will be subject to judicial review. So now we await developments.

I want to end this post, and probably comments on onshore wind for a good while, by paying tribute to the amazing commitment by the protestors. Many of these volunteers have given up months, sometimes years, of their lives to organise a brilliantly professional campaign of opposition. I can never forget the astonishing public meeting at Welshpool Livestock Mart, and the 38 bus loads of people who travelled to protest on the steps of the Senedd in Cardiff Bay. A picture which will remain in my mind forever was the scene when I gave my evidence to the Inquiry when there were just volunteers on one side and perhaps 15 barristers, etc., all paid for at electricity consumers expense on the other. We must be heartened that David did defeat Goliath. The protest movement has been brilliant. Without it I would have been able to achieve nothing at the Westminster level. They love Mid-Wales, and have shown a commitment and sacrifice which will ensure I, and others who really love this wonderful place, will forever be grateful.


Anonymous said...

Looking at the few objections remaining from PCC, this does not represent value for money when almost £3 million of public money has been spent and wasted.

Had the council listened to the advice from their case handling officers when they stated there was no evidence for refusal on certain issues, then this bill could have been considerably less.

Will the same cllrs who presented their reasons for refusal be as quick to reimburse the coffers of the council budget? No they won't. It's easier for them to slash £m’s from other budgets!

There were two main cabinet cllrs who were taking lead in listing these many original objections, both of whom were elected to the council unopposed and given free reign to spend public money.

Now let's look at the evidence.
PCC have stated that Llandinam wind farm is ready for consent. They'd like to see a short section of the 132kv wooden pole line undergrounded. This would remove their only objection to the power route.
Carnedd Wen, only object to the sitting of five of the 50 turbines. The inspector has the power to remove these five turbines from the plans.
Llanbrynmair - the only objection from PCC is that they object to the access track, however if Llanbrynmair are willing to share access tracks with C Wen, then PCC has no other objection.
Llaithddu - A community consortium made up of local land owners & local investors.
PCC approve the northern half of the wind farm and have asked for Llaithddu to resubmit this as a smaller scheme, taking it below 50mw where the council would grant instant approval. The southern half is where the council object to visual. Llaithddu being locally owned, the locals don't object to visuals so I hope the Lydiate's & friends stick to their guns and get granted full consent.
Possibly the most likely to be refused will be Llanbadarn, again based on visual. But with the UK falling short of their 2020 renewable energy targets and a 1/4 of our old power stations due to be decommissioned before the end of the decade, the need for renewable energy from large projects such as this are vital which adds weight to their case.


Anonymous said...

Glyn, you've made some remarkable comments in your opposition to wind energy over the years but I have yet to hear you come up with any suggestions for our energy needs. Certainly many objectors on your social media page call for more solar and other renewables, which I agree with them. But consider that one wind turbine produces about the same amount of power as 16,000 solar panels, there's only so many factory roofs where they can be installed. They fail to recognise that the existing mid Wales grid is near full capacity so even with Powys hosting other renewable, the grid would still need to be upgraded.

There was a good item on the Welsh news earlier this week where a wind farm company had committed to spending £100 million with local businesses as part of their local supply chain contact. This is creating & sustaining jobs, putting money back into the economy alongside a community benefit fund of £1.8m a year which local communities cannot wait to get their hands on to breathe life and sustainability back into their area. This is clean money which means it's eligible for match-funding.
Now tell me that Powys is in a position to turn this sort of investment away!

Ensuring wind farms are appropriately placed is key. Ensuring people engage with national grid to shape the MWCP is vital. Far too many people are going to the consultation events stating "it's not going to happen" It's completely the wrong attitude. They should go there with the mindset of IF it happens, we need to put the best possible case forward for reduced impact. Be it the use of wooden poles, or alternative routes or more undergrounding. This is where you and the anti pylon groups have failed us.

Your own conservative energy minister, Michael Fallon told you in no uncertain terms that the UK is committed to meeting its renewable energy targets and new grid infrastructure will need to be installed. Do you not listen to what key people are saying?

And if you are so confident in winning, why has your ex Mont conservative treasurer, and anti wind campaigner & alliance spokesman packed his bags and moved 120 miles away to England?

T Williams

Anonymous said...

To celebrate Edna Mopbucket coming back into this realm of existence ... 'Bah humbug...'

opps-error ...

Baa, Baa Black Sheep
Do you have any wool?
Yes Sir, Yes Sir!
Three bags full.

Dr. Christopher Wood